Home Forums Critique Central Mystery/Crime Unchipped

This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 10 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #346575



    been playing with the old style detective stories in a newish setting. would like some feed back. I realize it is a cliched opening which is something i will be addressing in the edit.

    Chapter 1
    The rain fell silently on the large office window. The tall, slender figure of James Conway gazed down at the blurred figures slipping in and out of patches of yellow light throw out by the street lamps. They came and went in ones and two, occasionally groups, indistinct huddled forms heading home after their day’s work. Then a different kind of figure, the one Conway had been waiting for and at the same time had hoped wouldn’t show. Moving slower than the rest, seemingly unaffected by the weather. The figure paused in the street below, opposite the entrance to his building. Had it been a clear night Conway would have been able to see the expression on his visitors a face. However he already knew what it would be, knew it well. He was about to have meeting that he had had many times before.

    He stepped away from the window so as not to be seen from the street by his visitor. Being seen waiting for people never put them at ease, made them feel rushed and pressured. Better to let them make it to his office in their own time. He turned to look at his empty dimly lit office, just four blank walls, his metal desk and an old worn leather chair set one step away from the window, he appreciated the classic look. He had spent so long sitting that chair that the shape of his body showed on the cracked leather even when he wasn’t there. It was a relic from his past life when everyone had chair like that. These days they were seen as bad for your back, non-orthopedic or something like that, people had taken to using standing desks, or walking desk. Making offices look more like gyms. Conway didn’t really care. He had thought many times of changing his office, but it couldn’t really look any other way for his business. A light, cheerful, painting on the wall would look as out of place as a children’s tea set.

    He pulled his old chair back, one of the wheels complained at being moved, the screech tearing at the silence in the room. He sat and waited, he had been sure to leave the door downstairs unlocked to let people come and go easily. The constant buzzing of the intercom had long since become tiresome. He had no secretary and didn’t want to get one, just another person to cause him issue.
    A shadow fell across the crack under the plain wooden door to his office. It was accompanied by a quiet knocking, so quiet that, had he not been listening for it, he would not have heard it leaving the person outside to maybe give up and go home. Maybe that was what his visitor was hoping for. “Come in” he said, the silence of the office making his voice seem louder than it actually was.

    The door cracked open and a sli, woman in stepped in. she was wearing a long rain coat darkened by the rain and tied at the waist. Conway noticed, not for the first time, that she had looked after herself. A weak smile flickered on her lips for a second as she looked at Conway. Conway nodded and returned the gesture with a tightening of his lips against it teeth, almost a smile but more of a preparation. The visitor gently closed the door and walked over to the desk. Her shoes making a steady click on his wooden floor. Conway had a small metal chair for visitors. Purposely hard and uncomfortable to dissuade people from hanging around. She sat down neatly perched on the very edge of the grey metal. She looked at him with large dark eyes. The long dark strands of her wet hair framing her face.

    There was nothing to say, in the past he had tried to make small talk with his clients but it had never led anywhere. Conway simply slipped a small blue plastic square out of his drawer and passed it across the table. The lady took it, gentle precise movements of a piano player. Out of her bag she produced small data reader a slim black box with a screen that took up one whole side. It had a slot for the card he had passed her. He waited while she put the card in and listened to the tones as she went through some menu options. Not many tones, a cheap model, maybe bought especially for the meeting. The screen lit up the woman face, she had got to the photos. Then came the gasps and she scrolled through the pictures on the screen. Her hand cupped her mouth, her elegant fingers pulling her cheeks. Soft tones came from the reader as she continued see image after image, her eyes that were used to smiling began to fill up with tears.
    Finally she looked back at Conway. She took a deep breath and composed herself “Thank you“ she managed to say, hiding the emotion in her voice.
    “Sorry” Conway replied, and immediately felt stupid and it was if he was really sorry maybe he would have hidden some of the photos he had taken of her husband. He wasn’t sorry really. He had a job to do.
    “I’ll pay up now” said the woman breathing in deep sighs and blinking some tears away. Conway knew he had to get her out of his office soon before she broken down. He produced another small box, a black shiny panel on the top and a keypad on the back. He entered the cost of his services and placed it on the table. A soft female voice came from the box “please wave your hand” the woman did as the little box had asked and passed her hand through the air about an inch above the shiny black panel. “thank you” said the same feminine voice. The woman turned and left, much more strength and determination in her stride.

    Conway breathed, happy it was over “lights off” he said out loud to the empty room and the lights dimmed and went out. Only a blue glow from his computer screen lit the office now. It had blinked on in response to the payment. Conway passed his hand over the computer’s sensor and a personal menu came up.
    Apparently he hadn’t alked enough that day and taken too many calories, the little screen also suggested that he lay off the whiskey this evening. However, if he didn’t feel like heeding that advice there were a number of bars and restaurants in a 10 min radius that suited his taste and price range. Conway stared at the screen for a while trying to be interested in the information

    Conway had been one of the first to be chipped. Mainly because he was still in the police at that time and they had to set a standard. The politicians had put forward as chipping as the only way to ensure safety In the late twenty-teens global riots had torn apart almost every major city. No one really knew how or why they had started, they seemed to have a different purpose city to city. People were afraid in their homes and the causalities had been in the thousands.
    It was a politician’s dream, the government put forward the slogan ‘20-20 by 2020’ meaning that if everyone was chipped by the year 2020 and the government could see everyone they would get control back and safety would return. Police and other services were the first to get chipped. The TV was full of images of queues of smiling people claiming a new feeling of safety now they were connected to computers. Some people held out and were either forced to be chipped or spurned by society.
    As chipping took hold it became harder and harder to survive without them. To pay for goods you needed a chip, to have a bank account you need a chip. In the end door sensor even need chips. The people who refused soon found themselves living on the streets unable to get work or food, the were constantly asked why they didn’t want to have the chips. What were they trying to hide? In the end everyone was chipped one way or another.

    It was at that point Conway left the police, the chips had changed that too much, police now were screen watchers, not even CCTV which was seen as inaccurate and archaic. No reason to have expensive bulky camera that could be tampered with, and tired humans who could mistake one person for another when you knew where everyone was. All the time. If a crime was reported then all the police had to do was check who was in the area. Then it was just a case of going to pick everyone up and find out who was guilty.

    Conway turned back to watch the rain. He needed to wait, if he left too soon he may find his latest client crying outside. He had been through that too many times before. As he watched drops of rain chase each other down the window he heard a sound that made his gut tighten. Someone was opening his door

    Whoever it was had made two mistake. There was nothing to steal in Conway’s office and they had come in while Conway was still there.

    “Conway, you in here” came a voice calling through the darkness. A weasly voice but full of arrogance, more demanding a response than asking for one.
    “lights on” called Conway and spun the chair round as the lights flick back on to full strength. He saw exactly what he thought he would see. A young scrawny man, his hair was slick either from grease or from the rain outside it was hard to tell. He was dressed in an ill fitting suit that his frame barely filled. It looked like a boy had borrowed his father’s work clothes, clearly someone had told him to wear it. This was a low level street walker, no strength of his own but somehow connected to a higher up so he felt he had power.

    “what you want?” asked Conway
    “I’ve been sent to ask you something’ replied the new visitor as he started towards Conway’s desk. ‘Sent’ yeah that makes sense thought Conway no way this guy makes decisions. Conway watched him come to the desk, there was something about the way he walked, for a street guy he had good posture, he moved smoothly didn’t strut or fidget as he walked. Conway instinctively checked his hands, confident out of place walking could mean there was an attack coming. The thin visitors bony hands were empty. Conway remained seated, keeping the desk and some extra space between him and his visitor. If he was going to be attacked that was a lot of ground to cover.

    “I’m Sid” said the man leaning on the desk and extending a sweaty hand. He held it there for a second, then when it wasn’t taken he slid it over to Conways screen and tapped a red square with ‘NEWS’ written on it.

    IMPOSSIBLE KILLER head line appeared on the screen. “You heard of that?” asked Sid taking sitting on the chair that the previous client had vacated. Again Conway noticed that he had remarkably good posture for someone that surely spent a lot of his time leaning against walls waiting for orders.

  • #654941


    Just a couple overall notes:

    While you have the noir down pretty well, it does cause some problems with ‘settling’ the reader as to time frame. The beginning implies a much earlier time period when it actually is either current or in the future a bit. Some ‘hints’ in the beginning as to the actual period would help lessen the jarring when the “blue plastic box” is brought out.

    I’d also cut down a bit on the discussion of the chips. An explanation is needed, but some of the more “political opinion” parts could come later in the story, maybe as a scattering of ‘asides’ from the MC or others.

    The real start, IMO, is after this woman leaves. You could slash a great deal of the details of the meeting with the woman, preserving only enough to set the scene for the young man’s appearance. As it is, so much detail with the woman is misleading, making the reader think she’s an important part of the story, when in fact, it seems she’s merely window-dressing.

    There are a lot of editing problems – misused or missing words, poor punctuation, sentence fragments, typos, etc. It distracts from the reading and makes it difficult to focus on the story, which is a pity because I think I would have found this more engaging if it hadn’t been for that. I would strongly suggest reading it out loud, which would allow you to catch most of these, and that you do this for future critique requests as well.

  • #654942


    I found this story interesting in spite of the word omissions and grammar slips. Like Ostarella, my main criticism refers to the time period. If all this new technology came about in the late 20-teens and was perfected by 2020, I found it difficult to see the scene happening. Ten years in the future? It could happen by then, but you would have to drop the 2020 vision reference. You have piqued my curiosity with the story. I found the second visitor more interesting than the first but I imagine the woman will give more work to this detective so we will learn more about her. I look forward to reading more.

  • #654943


    Thank you very much for the replies gentlemen

    I will defiantly work on the points you raised.

    Will post more when I have time

    Thanks a lot

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